Friday, December 29, 2006

My List of End of Year Lists

Round-up of those ubiquitous end of year stories:

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Politicking Means Never Having to Answer to your Constituents

I recently wrote a letter to our illustrious PM registering my disapproval of our actions in Afghanistan. I clearly stated we should end our combat mission and work towards peace and security for the Afghan people. Here's a selection of what I wrote:
Killing people doesn't win their hearts and minds. We should not be fighting as part of NATO, but should find positive alternatives, such as protecting NGOs who are on the ground working efficiently for reconstruction.

The Northern Alliance (the 'Good Guys' we are supporting) are just as violent and fundamentalist as the Taliban were. The people of Afghanistan are left with little choice and little hope.

We need to stop killing the Afghan people, and start talking. Negotiating. Rebuilding.

Here's the prefab response I received (note the total lack of response to my actual letter):

It is in Canada's national interest to see Afghanistan become a free, democratic and peaceful country. An unstable Afghanistan represents a serious threat to Canada and the world. Canada has assumed an international leadership role by serving in the United Nations mandated, but Canadian led, Afghan security mission.

Canada has a tradition of stepping up to the plate and providing leadership on global issues. The Prime Minister is proud of the Canadian Forces personnel who have put themselves on the line to defend our national interests and to help Afghans rebuild their country. They are standing up for core Canadian values and achieving important victories for the people of Afghanistan.

As you may know, the House of Commons voted to extend the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan until February 2009. If you would like to access further information on this issue I would encourage you to visit the following websites:

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write.

There's some very interesting and subtle manipulation going on. They make it sound like a UN mission, and don't mention NATO at all. They don't use words like "kill", "maim", "fight", or "war". Indeed it sounds like a UN peacekeeping mission.

It's not that I actually expected anything different, of course. I think a simple acknowledgement of my disagreement would have made me feel heard, but that's just not politics.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Funny Where You Find Bits of Truth

As the lyrics of one of my favourite songs goes:
"Once in a while
you get shown the light
in the strangest of places
if you look at it right"
On my way to Edmonton for Christmas with my family, nestled in-between pages and pages of advertisements and "shopping guides", I read a good anti-consumerist article in the in-flight magazine.

The author quotes Roger Scuton who said as a society, we've become very good at "means" (ways to do things) but worse at "ends" (reasons for doing things). Reminded me of a question asked of Richard Dawkins: what can we do about the "why" questions that science can't answer. (Dawkins says those questions are invalid and nonsensical).

In our education system, science and technology are priviliged over liberal arts, humanities, and social science. In reality, though, what is more important for the health, happiness, and fulfillment of all people: figuring out how to build a better, more harmonious and healthy society, or how to build a faster jet or more deadly pesticide?

Merry Christmas, American Troops and their Families

It's official: the war in Iraq has killed more Americans than 9/11. Not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Merry Christmas indeed. :(

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bright Sparks of Light, on the Longest, Darkest Night

Well, Winter Solstice is upon us. Not only is it the longest night of the year, it is also a new moon this year, meaning a very dark night

2006 has been quite a dark year: Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, Israel/Lebanon, Palestinian territories, AIDS, etc.

Despite all of this, there is room for hope; the longest, darkest night is the best for stargazing. The Bush Administration is crumbling, something which we hope will result in a major change in course. Support for the war in Iraq reaches a new low. The very exciting developments in Latin America include (among others) the increased integration of the new Cochabamba Declaration. Death penalty executions in the USA were this year the lowest in a decade. The hard work of dedicated activists and brilliant thinkers has had many positive results. The good news and signs of hope inspires me to say: "Merry Solstice"!

Download and watch Biology, Resistance and Restoration: Sustainability as an Infinite Game (Free 51 Minutes, ipod video, zipped 300mb download here). Paul Hawken inspires us to imagine a world of growth without inequality, wealth without plunder and work without exploitation.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

John Mohawk, Iroquois Leader and Scholar, Dead at 61

Rest in Peace, John Mohawk.

I was fortunate enough to see John Mohawk at the Bioneers conference, at a "Kitchen Table Conversation" entitled Race, Class and Power, where he spoke alongside Paul Hawken, Aqeela Sherrills, and Akaya Windwood. This was a powerful workshop, which was so packed full there were people crammed in, sitting on the floor (You can buy a copy of the CD or MP3 from this session. It's worth a listen). I always have soft spots for historians, since history is one of my passions, but I have to tell you John Mohawk gave off such an aura of wisdom and gentleness. He also had very important things to say.

The 20th century saw the rise of Stalinism, of Hitlerism, of Fascisms of all kind all over, I mean not just Europe but in many places has led to holocausts, exterminations, extinctions.

In each and every case it was started by a people who felt like the Germans did, that they were somehow left out, somehow not given their due. People who took a conscious effort to reform their culture, and in so doing gave themselves permission to commit murder. That has been accelerating in this century and I think it will continue to accelerate into the next century.

That is going to be a result of the side effects of the combination of the globalisation of economy and all the social changes that have diminished the value of human labour and diminished the value of people's relationships and their symbiotic relationships with land.
Read or listen to the rest of this interview with him regarding the future.

Yesterday's Democracy Now also featured an excerpt from a talk he gave at a teach-in last month.
the American civilization has a rationalization for a lot of bad things, things like the removal policy and things like the Indian war thing, and things like the forced assimilation policy.

All of those flow from an ideology of white supremacy, which was the dominant ideology of race theory in the United States in the 19th century. I point this out, because it seems to me that the moment we're looking at is a proposal that peoples of the world, distinct peoples of the world have a right to a continued existence as distinct peoples. And I point to you that the white supremacy argument offers no such rights. It doesn't offer any rights to a distinct existence -- a continued existence of other species, of birds, animals, plants and whatever, fishes. It is a theory that says that one group has the absolute unhindered right to do what they need to do to get what they want.
Listen, read, or watch the whole thing

Monday, December 18, 2006

To Map a Green Line or Not

Peter Hirschberg: JERUSALEM, Dec. 18 (IPS) - "A directive by Israel's education minister that all maps in new editions of school textbooks must include the 1967 line that separates Israel from the West Bank has sparked a political firestorm, with right-wing politicians and religious leaders threatening to boycott the books if they are issued."
Read the rest

Sunday, December 17, 2006

What Can I Do About the War in Afghanistan?

Most of us progressives are opposed to what Canada and NATO are doing in Afghanistan. But what can we do about it?

1. Let Canadians hear your voice. Write letters to the editor of your local paper (tips). Email important independent news articles and commentary to your friends and family. When you hear people offering uninformed support for the mission, challenge them. Ask if they know that The Northern Alliance (the supposed good guys) are just as violent and fundamentalist as the Taliban. Ask them why a civilian man, woman, or child killed is called a "Taliban" by the news?

2. Don't let the government forget there is an active opposition to our war in Afghanistan. Write to your MP. Remind them that it isn't enough to get our troops out - we helped to create this mess, we need to take some responsibility for fixing it. Sign the NDP's "Support our troops; Bring 'em home" petition.

3. Educate yourself. Like any country, Afghanistan has a long and complicated history, which is very relevant to what is happening today. Read independent media. Try to find out and understand what the Afghan people really want. Here's a good article to start.

4. Express solidarity with indigenous groups, like RAWA and The Afghan Women's Mission. The people in these organizations are courageous and are working their hardest - the least we can do is help them. Provide moral support, offer to fundraise , donate a few bucks. It will go a long way. Join Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan

More suggestions? Please add them in the comments section.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Puts Things in Perspective, Doesn't It?

If there were... 100 People in the USA:

(From The Rational Radical): If 100 people collectively own $100.00, here's how it would be distributed as per current U.S. wealth distribution:
    1 person gets $38.10
    4 people get $5.32 each
    5 people get $2.30 each
    10 people get $1.25 each
    20 people get .60 each
    20 people get .23 each
    40 people get half a penny each
So, as per Democratic Space, is a wealthy country one with the most rich or the fewest poor?

If there were... 100 people on Earth

What would the Earth be like if it were a village of 100 people? Watch The Miniature Earth (It's really good) to find out... Via The Skwib.

How Rich Am I?

To get an idea of how rich we really are, check out the interactive Global Rich List. If you live in a Western country, even a modest income will place you in the top 10% of the richest people in the world.

How Many People are in the World?

As I go about my life, I feel like pretty much the centre of my world, but I am aware that there are billions of other subjects out there (or as a wise woman I know used to say: "you aren't the bellybutton of the world"). Indeed, there's a heckuva lot of people in the world. 6.5 billion is a really big number... too big to wrap one's mind around. So, check out Population:One and remember, one pixel is one person.

Does History Matter?

Anyways, to prove the past really did exist, check out this series of photographs of Iraq in 1918. A_Resident bought them at a yard sale. History is important. The past really did exist, and events of the past affect the present. The Middle East was a colonized area (many countries still are), and the results of that are still being played out.

Of all places, in MSN Money: "Got $2,200? In this world, you're rich. A global study reveals an overwhelming wealth gap, with the world's three richest people having more money than the poorest 48 nations combined."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What Do Kids Think?

After all, it is they that will be inheriting the world we create.

According to UNICEF, "...the world would be a far better place if children's views were seriously and systematically taken into consideration, if children's participation as citizens and bearers of rights was encouraged and empowered." I agree.

Kidlink is an amazing participatory web site, which asks young people from around the world for their thoughts on important questions, such as How Do I Want The World To Be Better When I Grow Up? Their answers vary, but there are common themes. Overwhelmingly, they want peace, tolerance, justice, a clean world, health, and safety.

For example, an 11 year old girl from India says:
Say no to racism and intolerance.Trying to improve the lot of poor people andtrying to create a youth community that will take a strong stand against anyone starting the politics of hatred.
C'mon grownups. Why aren't we listening?

Kids have a lot to say, when they are simply given the forum. UNICEF has also conducted polls to find out what children think about issues that affect them. They have results of these polls for East Asia/Pacific, Europe/Central America, and Latin America.

Also, check out today's BBC's School Day (Download the 15ish minute mp3 here), in which they ask kids from Tanzania, India, and England their opinions on topics like school, marriage, and terrorism. Very well-spoken kids with lots to say. This programme is what inspired this post, and is worth a listen.

Other posts about Kids

Solar Power in India/Wind Power in Africa

One of nine solar power stations replacing diesel generators on Sagur Island, West Bengal. Low carbon technologies allow this family and a new generation of local people to miss out on the pollution of 20th Century technology and its related health impacts.

Photo by Alex Webb.
It is not just in Ecocity that low carbon solutions are delivering an improved standard of living. This woman from Hluleka, one of the many remote, rural communities in South Africa, gets on with her day knowing she can look forward to a continuous electricity supply thanks to a combination of wind and solar power. Renewable energy is a cheap way of providing power for isolated communities.

From the amazing exhibit NorthSouthEastWest: A 360° View of Climate Change.

More on Art and Environment.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

An American in Hezbollah's Tent

Excerpts from Rethinking Terrorism: A Jewish American Crosses into Hezbollah Territory:
I found myself in front of a squad of Jordanian police, explaining that I could not share in the bread they were offering because it was Eid al-Pesach, a holiday commemorating the Jewish escape from Egypt thousands of years ago.

They offered me yogurt and a spoon.

In all my travels in the Middle East I have repeatedly received the same welcome response.

This trip to Lebanon was no different than the other trips to the Middle East, says the author, which leads to the question:
How does the bombing start when we can we stand here chatting politely, drinking coffee, asking questions about Israel and Lebanese politics? Who are the people who start the bombing? Who are the kidnappers and the killers? And why can't they talk a little more first?

Why indeed? It is at least partially due to the incredible fear-mongering seen from the government and media. Fear is the most useful tool for governments bent on warmaking, and the media are their echo chamber. There is a dangerous and irrational anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hysteria, mostly fueled by the false, but fear-provoking equation: Muslim = Terrorist.

Howard Zinn reminded us of this in a recent address, by quoting Göring, who said: "Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war? But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism. It works the same way in any country." (Emphasis mine)

Filed under Reflection

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Who Are the 400 Poorest?

We all know who the 400 Richest Americans are, and who are the world's billionaires. We know where they vacation, what kind of homes they live in, the cars they drive, their marital status, the yachts they go yachting in.

Our obsession with and lionization of the wealthy Cloud Minders (see David Korten) is obscene.

Do we know who the 400 poorest Americans are? Who are the 400 poorest in the world? Do we know their names? Do we know what each one eats, where they sleep, what kind of work they do?

We don't, but we do know about the injustice of wealth distribution: these top 400 richest Americans in Forbes own more than world's 2.5 billion poorest combined.
As Barbara Ehrenreich so eloquently put it:
The ‘working poor’ as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.

More on Poverty

Monday, November 27, 2006

Eliminate Violence Against Women

Saturday was International Elimination of Violence Against Women Day, and the first of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

In the GTA, 13 women have been murdered by their husband or partner so far this year. One was Malini Thayakumar, stabbed to death by her husband on Nov. 5. Kathiravelu Thayakumar, who killed their daughter before killing himself, had been convicted in 2002 of assaulting his wife.

The province as a whole fares even worse than the GTA, according to StatsCan, with three to six women a month being a victim of domestic homicide. (From The Star)

There's a very strong tendency is marginalize, ignore, or outright deny the extent of violence against women. One of the most important things to do is to keep the issue out there, in the public eye. Here are 16 more ways to help.

Truly, this issue is not just for women. Lots of great resources for men here and here (excellent sites).

More on Women's Rights.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Media Void

Swedish human rights worker viciously attacked by Jewish extremists in Hebron: Story Not Covered in Major Media

"If 100 Palestinians chanting anti-Christian slogans had smashed a 19-year-old Swedish girl in the face with a bottle, breaking her cheek bone, it would be headlines in much of the US media." Via IfAmericansKnew Group.

Well, Israeli extremist settlers did just that, and nary a peep from the major Western news outlets.

Please contact your local media, tell them you have a news tip.

To see if our agitaging has yet made a difference, visit Google News. Today's screenshot at left shows only 7 pieces of coverage, none of which are from major Western media.) Today we only read about the oldest Palestinian suicide bomber who injured 2 Israeli soldiers (also awful, but both stories are equally deserving of coverage).

From International Solidarity Movement
A 19-year old Swedish human rights worker had her cheekbone broken by a Jewish extremist in Hebron today. Earlier the same day at least five Palestinians, including a 3-year-old child, were injured by the settler-supporting extremists, who rampaged through Tel Rumeida hurling stones and bottles at local residents. Palestinian schoolchildren on their way home were also attacked. The Israeli army, which was intensively deployed in the area, did not intervene to stop the attacks.
The incident was the latest attack by extremist Jews in Hebron. The small group of Khannist settlers in Tel Rumeida regularly attack and harass Palestinians in the area. The violence sometimes spills over to the international human rights workers who accompany Palestinians in an attempt to protect them from settler attack.

Here is the response by the spokespeople for The Jewish Community of Hebron, suggesting to the Swedish Foreign Ministry that, "in order to avoid any other unpleasant incidents in Hebron, all Swedish citizens, including members of TIPH and others, such as Ms. Johansson, be requested to stop their politically provocative anti-Jewish activities, leave Hebron immediately and stop interfering in internal Israeli affairs."

Topics: Media Issues, Middle East

Friday, November 17, 2006


From ZNet:
One of the most devastating consequences of unearned privilege -- both for those of us on top and, for very different reasons, those who suffer beneath -- is the death of empathy.

Too many people with privileges of various kinds -- based on race or gender, economic status or citizenship in a powerful country -- go to great lengths not to know, to stay unaware of the reality of how so many live without our privilege. But even when we do learn, it's clear that information alone doesn't always lead to the needed political action. For that, we desperately need empathy, the capacity to understand the experiences -- especially the suffering -- of others. Too often in this country, privilege undermines that capacity for empathy, limiting the possibilities for solidarity.
This was a great article for me to read today.

Invalidating someone's experience and judging them is easy when you are in a position of privilege. Blaming the victim, a topic I have definitely written about before, is one example of the consequences of lacking empathy.

Examples: Those who condemned the people of New Orleans, calling them "whiners" (don't believe me?). The dude I was conversing with the other day about the Palestinians (comments on this post) - he made a lot of very well-reasoned arguments, but this always seems to be accompanied by an unwillingness to really take in the pain and suffering of the Palestinian people. Recent articles like this one dismissing date rape, or those who deny the prevalence of violence against women and children also show a willful lack of empathy.

As Rabbi Michael Lerner wisely said - men didn't know patriarchy even existed until women told them. We need to listen more and judge less.

I think that's one reason I admire Amy Goodman so much. Her stories are not just news - they are truths, they allow the voiceless to be heard, and they are delivered with empathy.

More Solidarity and Reflection

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Microcredit and Women Empowerment

Are the microcredit programs that everyone is abuzz about overrated? Apparently this is a hotly debated issue.

My first inclination is to dismiss microcredit because it doesn't change the structural causes of poverty. Microcredit brings poor people into the existing global system of exploitation, and might even mask that very real exploitation, putting even more onus on the poor to get themselves out of the hole others have dug them into. It doesn't speak to social justice at all.

BUT, as I was reminded by The Rebel Sell, something that actually works shouldn't necessarily be dismissed so quickly, for solely ideological reasons. It is important to also look at the real and measurable results. Our fight for justice can, and does, occur in parallel to all sorts of development activities; indeed, as people rise out of the most devastating of poverty, they may have more resources and power with which to fight.

So microcredit needs to be examined on a functional basis: does it work? Does it help alleviate poverty? Does it empower women financially and/or within the family?

The answer is not so clear.

Increasing the burden of debt is one potential problem. As long as microcredit is managed by NGOs like Save the Children, this is a fairly small risk, as there are a whole host of additional helpful programs that accompany the actual money lending transaction. Unfortunately with high interest rates, especially when the private sector gets involved for profit, there can be grave consequences.

If not necessarily effective at improving poverty levels, what about the situation of women? Improving women's equality is vital to so many other progressive goals, that this alone might validate microcredit. If it could improve women's economic position, reduce the birth rate, and improve health, then there might be something to it.

Proponents of these micro-loans list the ways they help women, but results are mixed. According this journal article, "the effects of interventions such as microcredit loan programs—which empower women economically and socially—on domestic violence are ambiguous. Participation in such programs can, on the one hand, reduce a woman's risk of domestic violence by making her life more visible and by increasing her perceived value in the family; on the other hand, if the woman's economic empowerment results in her acting more assertively, her husband may respond with violence."

There does seem to be some preliminary evidence that involvement in one of these microcredit programmes does improve contraceptive use by women, which is a fairly significant marker of progress. There are a lot more articles here.

I can't claim to make a definitive conclusion. Although I would prefer to see the end of the disastrous SAPs and an expansion of important social programs, if microcredit energizes a discouraged development sector and elicits more money for the groups on the ground, then for that reason alone, it is worth pursuing.

More on Poverty and Women's Issues

Monday, November 13, 2006

U.S. Again Stands in the way of Justice for Palestinians

Despite the massacre in Beit Hanun, the recent shooting of Palestinian women at a demonstration, and other egregious acts, the US once again uses its veto power in the UN Security to prevent justice. (10 of the last 11 vetoes have been cast by the United States. Almost all of those were to do with the Israel-Palestinian conflict.)

How is it possible to imagine this is moral? The devastation of the lives of people trapped in Gaza is appalling. Reality is so disturbing. How many people, if they are aware of what is happening, can morally justify standing by while these acts take place? Is it that we don't really see what is going on? Let that not be the excuse: Here are some photos and some more (warning, graphic content).

More on The Middle East

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Funday!

Only two days until Sunday Sinday. And boy, are there a lot of sins! 667 according to this sin list.

I'll confess, I'm guilty of many things, including #611, "Women wearing mens' clothes". Damn those devilishly comfortable big t-shirts I sleep in! I wonder where unisex clothing falls on the sin spectrum?

I have also been known to quarrel occasionally (#483) and I believe in evolution (#181). I also have crafty (#92) or foolish (#100) conversations whenever I can. At least I don't smoke (#545).

Speaking of sinners, I like these Chickenhawk cards. Very convenient and portable.

What's with the head rubbing? Does he think it's good luck?

More Funny

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Challenges to CanWest's Attempt to Overturn Drug Ad Ban

Ah, CanWest, publisher of fine corporate media products such as the National Post, has hit a snag in their battle to advertise drugs directly to Canadians. But it's not over yet.

From PR Watch:
A coalition of unions, women's and health groups have been granted intervenor status in a case in which CanWest MediaWorks is seeking to overturn the Canadian government's ban on direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA). The groups argue that if CanWest is successful it would push up healthcare costs and undermine the sustainability of the Canadian healthcare system. CanWest is arguing that the ban on DTCA is a violation of their right to freedom of expression. In an analysis of the case, Colleen Flood and Michelle Zimmerman from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, warn against assuming that the court won't decide in the media giant's favour. "In order for the current legislation to be upheld, courts will need to be persuaded that nothing short of the existing limits on DTCA would allow the federal government to achieve its other pressing societal concerns, such as protecting patient safety. This will be a difficult task," they wrote.
SOURCE: NewsWire, November 6, 2006

Drug ads generate billions of dollars in the USA, but at a cost to the public. Running the ads in Canada will benefit only the corporate interests of pharmaceutical companies and the giant media conglomerates who profit off of the advertising revenues. Let's hope the public interest wins out instead.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Friday, November 03, 2006

Child Abuse: As American as Apple Pie

The United Nations recently came out with a comprehensive global report on child abuse, the first of its kind from what I understand. It details widespread violence against children, and what I found surprising was just how much of it is socially accepted and even legal. The main findings include:

  • It estimates that some 150 million girls, 14% of the planet's child population, are sexually abused each year, as well as seven percent of boys, or 73 million children
  • There were 218 million child labourers in 2004, of whom 126 million did hazardous work, and 5 million children live in slavery
  • There are as many as 250,000 child soldiers around the world
  • 53,000 children were murdered in 2002
  • More than one million children are imprisoned worldwide (100,000 of these children are in the U.S.)
Download the complete report in 6 languages.

The U.S. and Canada are certainly not immune from these problems. For example, child abuse kills more than 3 children in the U.S. every day - source).

From ZNet, Lucinda Marshall writes in Child Abuse: As American as Apple Pie: "If we truly valued families and the lives of children, these are the issues we would address."

Unfortunately somehow "family values" has some kind of twisted Orwellian meaning. "Family values" apparently means a very narrowly defined family (nuclear), but not necessarily a safe one. Proponents of "Traditional Family Values" oppose abortion but have little to say about protecting the most vulnerable among us from, say, poverty or parental neglect (except maybe to pour scorn on teenage single mothers). Poverty is the most frequently and persistently noted risk factor for child abuse (here and here), and it is something that is within our power to change.

Social welfare, decent wages for the working poor, subsidized housing, nationally run child care, improved labour laws, well-funded public schools, easily accessible & high quality health care, community programs for children... these do so much more for children than banning same-sex marriage or criminalizing abortion, or a $1200 taxable child care allowance (which ends up as only $301 net for lower income families).

Topic: Family & Children

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Toronto Streets

originally uploaded by mountainman1975.
I love the Red Rocket.

This photo posted in honour of the recently released Toronto Streets Report which attempted to find out why pedestrian concerns are so lacking in our city street design and planning.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Non-Violent resistance in Israel and the Occupied territories

Despite what is an increasingly violent and militaristic culture in Israel, there are so many individuals and groups who are standing up and saying no more.

There are the extremely courageous Israeli conscientious objectors, who face imprisonment for refusing to fight and kill.

There's Yehuda Shaul, who wants Israelis and the world to know what is being perpetrated upon the Palestinian people. As he puts it, he is trying to break the silence, because "what's going on in the Occupied Territories is like the biggest secret in Israeli society. It's like the taboo. You never talk about it." (Listen/Read/Watch the Interview)

There is also so much non-violent resistance among Palestinians that is overshadowed by violent acts and underreported by the media.

I am particularly hopeful, however, about the solidarity movements and women's groups that are coalitions of both Israeli and Palestinian Women (like Coalition of Women for Peace and Bereaved Families Circle).

Here is an interesting podcast describing some of the Israelis and Palestinians who are using non-violent resistance to oppose the occupation. (listen/download mp3 - about 20 minutes long, and definitely worth a listen).

UPDATE DEC 18, 2006 - Yesterday there was a related article in The Star: Ex-soldiers break 'silence' on Israeli excesses: Yehuda Shaul tells Haroon Siddiqui 'something rotten' is going on in Gaza and the West Bank.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Who Needs Greenwashing? Try Greenbombing!

No, I'm not joking. Arms manufacturer British Aerospace (BAE) is designing green weapons. Yes, as in environmentally-friendly death machines. Will this spawn a new category... Eco-murder? Envirokilling? Greenbombing?

Says Deborah Allen of BAE: "We all have a duty of care to ensure that from cradle to grave products are being used appropriately and do not do lasting harm". Newsflash, Deb, you make weapons for killing people. Usually, death is considered to fall into the category of "lasting harm". More at BBC and The Times. Via Gristmill.

File this one under how to not save the world.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

"Environmentalists need to get on the Social Justice Bus"

This weekend I've been fortunate enough to have been able to go to the Bioneers conference in San Rafael, California. I thought I was going to an environmental conference, and had mixed feelings about this, because in some sense I feel that environmentalism is a movement of privilege.

Any regular readers of my blog probably have an idea that one of the themes that comes up a lot is the need for broad coalitions between diverse kinds of movements. I believe the suffering caused by the destruction of the enviroment is unfairly visited upon the most marginalized in society (a diverse group indeed). The marginalized groups are also often excluded from large-scale environmental movements, in particular consumer-based movements like organics, or "shopping for sustainability" as I like to (derogatorily) call it.

I have been pleasantly surprised, thrilled, even, to find out that at this conference, these underlying values of social and economic justice are actually a shared assumption, one which if mentioned would provoke a great chorus of: "duh!".

To paraphrase Paul Hawken's very inspiring talk: Instead of environmentalists inviting other movements to get on their bus, environmentalists have to get on the social justice bus.

I will have much more to write about as I continue to digest all I have learned and experienced this weekend.

More Reflection on the Environment and Solidarity

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sad News Tempered by Small Victories for Women

Good News: Zainab Fornah (originally refused asylum in 2003, based on her fear of being subjected to female genital mutilation if she were to return to Sierra Leone, a country where women have few rights) was finally granted asylum in Britain.

Sad: The Information Minister of Sierra Leone, Septimus Kaikai, expressed his disapproval, claiming what Fornah was doing was an example of a "deliberate and conscious and premeditated attempt by individuals to malign and besmear the reputation, integrity and character of a government and its people."

I guess having your clitoris brutally and painfully cut off is nothing compared to maybe, possibly being subjected to real or imagined, potential, or implied criticism.

Sad: Lebanon would like Israel to comply with the terms of the ceasefire and, please and thank you, to withdraw completely. In other news from the Middle East, mysterious and deadly wounds in people from Gaza might have been caused an experimental weapon, Dime (Dense Inert Metal Explosive), a charge which Israel denies.

A possible victory: it appears there is hope for Sawsan Salameh. Sawsan Salameh is the Palestinian woman who was barred from going to University in Israel for her doctorate in theoretical chemistry, despite receiving a scholarship to the Hebrew University. She is a brave woman from a traditional Arab Muslim society, who hopes to be a role model to other women and young girst. She who took her fight to the supreme court, and was also supported by University officials: "How can we send Israeli students to universities abroad while we act this way when Israeli academics have been boycotted in countries like England and Canada? How can we appeal to those countries if we are doing the exact same thing?"

Also good news: I'm going to this conference this weekend.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Toronto City Elections

Although our local municipal elections are possibly our greatest opportunity to make a difference with our little slice of democracy, the Toronto elections draw a woefully small proportion of Torontonians out to vote. Usually there seems to be a fairly high profile mayoral race, but in the ridings the incumbents are shoe-ins, often simply because theirs are the only names voters actually recognize.

Toronto is not a corporation, but if we are too busy and self-absorbed to be active and engaged citizens (voting in elections is a very small part of this responsibility) then we end up with elected officials functioning as business managers. The CEO of Toronto (oops, I mean the Mayor) and the middle managers (er, councillors) need to be accountable for their decisions.

Descisions around issues like transportation, housing, urban planning and development, health and safety are fundamental to the way we live our daily lives. They affect all of us. Involvement in city politics offers one of our best chances at being heard. There are lots of fresh new faces running this year, and some hotly debated issues are at stake.

If you live in Toronto, here's some helpful resources, mostly via Who Runs this Town:

EDIT: Also check out this elections page from the Ontario Tenants site.
and from the good old TPSC, possibly one of the most informative election sites dealing with public space issues

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Authoritarianism in America

I, personally, don't like to use the word "Fascism" because it is an inflammatory term, with a tendency to be misused as a knee-jerk reaction ("Islamo-fascists" anyone?), but this article by Stan Goff makes an excellently argued case that American Fascism is on the rise. Fascism is both an economic & political system, involving centrally planned capitalist corporate rule for the benefit of the elite, as well as a culture. One dominant aspect of American culture, is indeed militaristic, patriarchal, and racist.
Fascism traditionally employs either a master-race or master-culture narrative. This narrative is reinforced for troops on the ground in Iraq by the circumstances. The role of occupier is the role of dominator, and as the Stanford Prison Experiment proved dramatically, this dominator role very quickly translates into the dehumanization and objectification of the dominated. On the ground, at the infantry level, wars of domination in every instance become race wars.
What is especially interesting is his demonstration that many forms of oppression are intimately linked. He shows how economic insecurity helps to promote the sort of white supremicist, anti-feminist, and frankly racist reactions that are becoming more and more acceptable these days. It is "safe" for people to fire off vicious anti-Muslim and anti-Arab epithets, for example, or to put down feminist women (In fact, the comments on the article were peppered with statements like this one blaming anti-feminsm on "the weary perception that no matter how much you give women what they want, they won't be satisfied.")

I think it is so important for all of us on the Left to show, and to experience, solidarity with all of our brothers and sisters who are fighting against the many forms of oppression. One of my pet peeves is the term "identity politics", a phrase used only in a derogatory manner to delegitimize real struggles as if they are squabbles or rivalries.

Women and children everywhere are disproportionately bearing the brunt of war and poverty; the most devastating impacts of environmental destruction are borne by poor third world countries; immigrants and/or aboriginal populations form an underclass in many Western countries; racist societal structures cause disproportionate AIDS rates among black people ... I could go on. The point is that each of our little struggles is part of the great striving for a just world, against a domination-based society that enriches the few with wealth and power.

More reflection, solidarity

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Real Estate Deal of the Day: $20 per Acre

Wow, $20 an acre? At that price almost everyone can afford their own small piece of earth. Well... not Earth, actually. Lunar Real Estate is apparently the hottest new thing.

Filed under: General Fun

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

War Preparations for Impending Iran-US Conflict: Canadian Participation?

I want to be proud of being Canadian.

Right now it's kinda hard. I'm not proud of what we are doing (and not doing) in Afghanistan. I'm not proud of our role in destabilizing Haiti. I'm really not proud of our current participation in war preparations clearly targeting Iran, including the naval militarization of the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.

What's this? Canada is preparing for war with Iran and the government didn't even tell Canadian citizens? Well, we are sending a warship as "part of Canada's campaign against terrorism in the Persian Gulf" (source)


The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is actively collaborating in this military endeavor.

Canadian foreign policy has been steadily and successively militarized by two successive governments.

The government of Prime Minister Paul Martin (Liberal) implemented the “three-dimensional policy” of the “3-Ds” (“Diplomacy”, “Development,” and “Defense"), adding a military component to Canadian foreign aid and development assistance.

The 3-Ds brought Canada into performing as more active role in U.S.-led operations in NATO garrisoned Afghanistan. Despite the public protest, Canada has become an integral member of the Anglo-American military alliance.

Canada's involvement is not limited to Afghanistan as suggested by the press reports and official statements.

The H.M.C.S. Ottawa has been dispatched to the Persian Gulf, leaving in September, from British Columbia. Officially the H.M.C.S. Ottawa is being deployed as part of Canada's contribution to fighting the “War on Terrorism.” The Canadian vessel is the first publicly known ship to be deployed to the waters of the Middle East in about a year.5 The Canadian vessel is slated to be fully integrated into "Expeditionary Strike Group 5 (ESG 5), which will be seafaring in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, off the Iranian coast.

From Read even more here.

There are a lot of questions about a potential Iranian conflict, chief of which is, will it actually happen? I don't think anyone knows for sure, but as predicted (and I briefly covered here) the aircraft carrier Eisenhower has been deployed, making war "probable".

More on war in the Middle East

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Connecting Movements = Solidarity

You might be asking what women's reproductive rights have to do with environmentalism. Well, the answer to that is: pretty much everything. The root causes of our environmental ills are the wants, needs, and desires of unimaginably huge numbers of people. Family planning is also one of the keys in helping to relieve poverty, which in turn helps to further reduce fertility rates as people climb the economic ladder. Poverty reduction and family planning go hand in hand, one begetting the other in a closed loop.
From Gristmill

Naturally, populations start to decline as a society becomes more egalitarian, industrialized, urbanized, wealthier.

Why? Give women more choices and they won't have as many babies - they may work outside the home, delay marriage, and use contraception. Children are expensive and less of an asset in industrial, urban societies as opposed to agricultural societies. Wealthier populations tend to also be healthier, which means less infant mortality (which generally correlates with having fewer babies). More info here and here.

Environmentalists can't afford to ignore structural poverty, racism, social injustice, women's rights... because these things are really several sides of the same coin. The debate should never be framed as economics vs. environment. The most vulnerable in our world have the least to lose - they will be (in fact, they are already) affected by ecological changes that we see in abstract terms.

More on women's rights, class issues, environment, solidarity

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Cars are Killing Us

People love their cars. Why? I guess it must be because cars are:

  • Dangerous: In the U.S.A. during the first two weeks of September 2001, more people were killed by automobiles, than by terrorism and AIDS combined!
  • Unhealthy: Polluting, resource guzzling, carbon distasters that encourage inactivity
  • Unsustainable: "Widening roads to solve traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity." -- Walter Kulash, a traffic engineer, Orlando, Fla.
  • Inefficient: 95% of the energy goes towards moving the CAR -- not the cargo/passengers.
  • Expensive: A light rail line can move the same number of people at peak travel time as a 12 lane highway, in a right of way 20% as wide at 30% of the cost. So why do we pay fares for transit when almost all roads are toll-free?
  • Isolating: "Enclosing ourselves in little bubbles, utterly separated from the rest of the world while we drive to our isolated house cut out of a forest so we can pretend we are alone in the world and not have to deal with anything that might be unpleasant, even reality."
    - Mostly taken from

This is not new information. We have known the problems with cars for a long time. This, for example, was written in 1977:

The fact that cars are large is, in the end, the most serious aspect of a transportation system based on the use of cars, since it is inherent in the very nature of cars. Let us stats this problem in its most pungent form. A man occupies about 5 square feet of space when he is standing still, and perhaps 10 square feet when he is walking. A car occupies about 350 square feet when it is standing still (if we include access), and at 30 miles an hour, when cars are 3 car lengths apart, it occupies about 1000 square feet. As we know, most of the time cars have a single occupant. This means that when people use cars, each person occupies almost 100 times as much space as he does when he is a pedestrian.

If each person driving occupies an area 100 times as large as he does when he is on his feet, this means that people are 10 times as far apart. In other words, the use of cars has the overall effect of spreading people out, and keeping them apart.
- A Pattern Language Christopher Alexander, et al. (read the book or get more info)

It is almost 30 years later, and public transit is still underfunded, and sprawl continues unabated. Unfortunately, unless pedestrian-friendly cities become the rule rather than the exception, people will remain car-dependent.

Cars are killing us, but we are supposed to fear terrorist evil-doers, Anthrax, West Nile Virus, wedded gay people, Mexicans...

More on the Environment & Urban Issues.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Go on a Low-Carbon Diet?

How low can an individual go? Seth Zuckerman goes on a Low-Carbon Diet to help answer that question.

I decided to try three carbon dioxide diets. First, that of the typical American. I would see how my consumption measures up to the national average and attempt (briefly) to burn as much fuel as my fellow citizens. Next, I'd investigate what it would take to bring my emissions down to the world average, the level of countries such as Jamaica and Romania. Finally, I'd try to produce no more than my share of what Earth's natural systems can handle.

He finds that as an individual he does not have control over his full share of carbon emissions. Industry's carbon emissions, the source of the electricity we use, poor public transportation and lack of affordable fuel efficient vehicles are all out of one person's control.

Interesting, in light of the debate after this week's Big Picture on CBC: Can We Save Planet Earth? Putting all the onus on individuals won't work when the consequences of our actions are distant and intangible. For every Prius one person buys, another buys a Hummer. Industry will make whatever people will buy, and people will buy what industry advertises. It's a circle that needs to be stopped, and voluntary self-regulation just isn't working.

People, we can't shop our way to sustainability.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Super Spy-o-Matic

It's fun to spy on friends and family! Be a true patriot and root out their shocking secrets!

psssst... It is wise, the Spy-O-Matic. It knows I prefer Middle Eastern "hummus" to all-American Lipton onion dip. Now I'm in trouble!! It told me "RedJenny hates freedom so much, RedJenny doesn't even own a semi-automatic assault weapon". I have been found out!!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Five Things Feminism Has Done for Me

As I mentioned yesterday, the Status of Women Canada was one of the programs that got slashed by our lovely government. Also yesterday I was participating in a conversation at the end of this piece on feminism. Seems people have something against feminists. I don't quite get it, except maybe these people have absorbed the stereotype of male-bashing ball-busting "feminazis", which incidentally I think doesn't really exist (maybe on the fringe somewhere, but I've certainly never met anyone like this. The feminists I know actually like men, they just don't like mysogyny).

The Progressive Bloggers have a project going called "5 Things Feminism Has Done for Me". So here's my list:

Feminism has:

  1. Improved my access to better paying jobs. Women have always worked, but now we get paid better than we used to. We are not yet at wage parity with men, but we have come a long way. Now I can at least support myself without relying on a man. I even have my very own bank account.
  2. Given me legal rights to my own body, including abortion rights and recourse in case of domestic violence. Domestic violence is still a big problem, but at least legally a man has no right to the "rule of thumb" anymore.
  3. Allowed me to own property (not that I do, but I could if I had the money and the desire), sign my own contracts, vote, join the army, drive, run for public office... in other words, allowed me to be considered a human being on par with the male human beings.
  4. Enabled me to get an edu-ma-cation. I believe the men in my life are also happy that I'm educated, informed and politically aware. It gives us more to talk about at the dinner table.
  5. Finally, along with other social justice movements, feminism has participated in making the world a more tolerant and just place for everyone. By challenging existing oppressive structures, we open society up to further change.

Feminism has done an incredible job so far, but we still have a long way to go. Around the world the struggles we have faced in the past continue to be fought, and our rights here are under assault, as the funding cut to SWC shows.

Solidarity is our only hope. A very small minority (mostly white upper class Christian men - please note this does not mean I hate white people, rich people, Christians or men) have it all, and the rest have to make do with the scraps. I say: don't fight each other for the scraps, fight the structures that keep us ALL down.

Oh, and tag, you're it.

More on women's issues.
related posts

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Federal Cuts Undermine the Progress of Women and All Canadians

Despite the $13.2 Billion surplus, the federal government just went on a slash-and-burn rampage, cutting funding for all kinds of things. The choice of programs that bore the brunt is very telling. Many are progressive programs that help some of the most vulnerable among us, and those who run, and those who benefit from these programs were given no opportunity to defend them.

Somehow there's enough money to increase defense spending, such as $30 million for an "acoustic weapon locator system", but not enough to help Aboriginal youth and pregant women stop smoking ($10 Million)? It isn't surprising at all, really, simply confirms the Conservative Party's values.

The news today tended to blanket the cuts without giving enough details, which I think is one of the reasons opinion tends to favour the cuts. People feel debt repayment is more important than "special interest" funding.

Even the CBC, tells little about WHAT was cut, summing up into 4 categories:

  • Programs that are not delivering value for money.
  • Programs that didn't spend all the money allocated.
  • Work that could be done more efficiently outside the government.
  • Programs that don't meet the needs of Canadians.
But these are value judgements made by the Conseratives, often with no basis. I think everyone can agree that spending money foolishly is a baaaad thing, but so many of these programs are very important and effective despite already being severely underfunded and operating on a shoestring budget.

The complete list can be found here, and includes adult literacy, youth employment, public diplomacy, and several Canada Heritage programs.

A couple of good examples are the Court Challenges program (“This Program has provided Canadian women with their only access to the use of their constitutional equality rights,” said Shelagh Day. “Equality rights have no meaning in Canada if women, and other Canadians who face discrimination, cannot use them.”) and the Status of Women Canada, whose budget is already one of the smallest of any department at the federal level, and has now been halved. This isn't "trimming the fat". Likewise should an obese person cut off an arm in order to improve her/his BMI? Good op-ed here.

More on women's issues, politics

Thursday, September 21, 2006

"War, War, Rumours of War"

War: Afghanistan
Canadians are at war in Afghanistan (or are we?). Whatever Harper calls it, we are killing and dying to protect a corrupt government filled with fundamentalist warlords against Taliban extremists. Oh good for us, killing bad people to protect other bad people; at least we think we are killing bad people. The Taliban can't be identified by membership cards, skin tone, T-Shirt colour, or any other convenient identity markers, so apparently soldiers are rounding up Afghan men in communities and reporting them as Taliban captured or killed. Well, I guess it's good for our troops. You know, dying is a real character builder.

War: Iraq
What is there to say? Imperialism by any other name is still... Imperialism.

Rumours of War: Iran
Yesterday on Democracy Now, an interesting analysis of Bush's speech at the UN General Assembly and a prediction of how a war on Iran might be played out. Phyllis Bennis tells of reports "in the last couple of days in Time magazine and elsewhere, indicating that there have in fact been orders preparing to deploy U.S. Navy warships towards Iran" with the goal of a naval blockade. She says most Americans don't know this is considered an act of war, so when Iran responds to the blockade (as is their right under Article 51 of the UN Charter), "the Bush administration would very likely call that an unprovoked attack on peaceful U.S. ships and would respond militarily, claiming to be responding in self-defense."
Until the philosophy which hold one race
Superior and another inferior
Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned
Everywhere is war, me say war

That until there are no longer first class
And second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes
Me say war

That until the basic human rights are equally
Guaranteed to all, without regard to race
Dis a war

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace, world citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion
To be persued, but never attained
Now everywhere is war, war

- Bob Marley

Why can't we be more like our cousins?

More on War

Monday, September 18, 2006

Halliburton Responds to Iraq for Sale

Robert Greenwald's new documentary Iraq for Sale has already sparked a reaction from Halliburton... He writes:
We are amazed that they [Halliburton] openly admit to not seeing the film, and then proceed to attack it because they can "deduce" its content! I kid you not. Maybe they can deduce what happened to the billions they overcharged.

They accused us of being "privately funded," which is their pathetic effort to smear the 3,006 of you who contributed to make the film happen! Perfect for a corporation where the head guy, David Lesar, one of THE top war profiteers, made over $40 million.

They attack us for getting the facts wrong, with no mention of any facts we got wrong. Then THEY distort the facts -- one of my favorite being, "By all accounts, KBR's logistical achievements in support of the troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan have been nothing short of amazing."

They cite 411 million meals served, but neglect to mention how many they overcharged for. They cite 5.85 billion gallons of water, and still haven't responded on how many gallons were contaminated.

And it goes on and on... read it for yourself if you want a good laugh.

We think it's time for Halliburton CEO David Lesar to own up, and since he's not going to do it himself, we will do it for him. Watch this television ad:

The fight is going to get tougher, harder, and meaner. The media attention on the war profiteers is escalating: CBS News, the Washington Post and the LA Times all featured stories this weekend. The stakes are significant and Halliburton, CACI, Titan, and Blackwater* are all watching very closely and will do everything possible to secure their profits.

Read more at the Iraq for Sale blog.

* Speaking of Blackwater, I have been hearing ever more about this very scary company. Laura Flanders recently interviewed Jeremy Scahill, who has done some incredible in-depth investigative journalism covering Blackwater in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and in Iraq. The interview (Listen to the Mp3) offers a nice summary of who/what Blackwater is, and why we should be concerned. I visited their website this weekend ( where they describe themselves as "a professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations firm".

Military privatization... just a bad idea: pricey, dangerous, ineffective, and hard to control. It brings the U.S. perilously close to being a Failed State according to commonly used definitions, because it lacks a "monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force". Makes ya think, huh?

Of course, Blackwater seems to have no qualms about creative marketing. Their Orwellian description says they "have become the most responsive, cost-effective means of affecting the strategic balance in support of security and peace, and freedom and democracy everywhere."


Friday, September 15, 2006

Gaza is a Jail. Nobody is allowed to leave. We are all starving now'

A whole society is being destroyed. There are 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in the most heavily populated area in the world. Israel has stopped all trade. It has even forbidden fishermen to go far from the shore so they wade into the surf to try vainly to catch fish with hand-thrown nets.
From Common Dreams

UNCTAD said the economic crisis was being compounded by decreasing levels of aid from foreign governments and institutions since the militant group Hamas swept January parliamentary elections. Western nations and Israel have been withholding hundreds of millions of dollars from the Hamas-led government because of the group's refusal to disarm, recognize Israel and accept existing peace agreements.

From CNN

Now that Hamas has agreed to dissolve the government and form a coalition, will things change? Will the Palestinians in Gaza have a chance to live?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Breathing Earth

The Breathing Earth demo is pretty neat (and quite attractively designed). It shows a real-time simulation of the Co2 emissions levels of each country in the world, as well as each country's populations, birth and death rates. Via Gristmill.

More posts related to the Environment

Monday, September 11, 2006

The World Failed to Change on 9/11

As the world came together in our grief and shock in the weeks after 9/11 did we forge an era of cooperation among the nations of the world? Did the attack on North American soil help us to understand life for those in other nations under attack? Did we remember that just as 3,000 innocent people died needlessly in New York City, tens of thousands of children die needlessly from hunger in a single day? Have we learned that each human life is important, that everybody is someone’s child, or spouse or parent? Have we tried to understand the powerless, the poor and the downtrodden?

Sadly, we have cheapened the memory of those who suffered by using their suffering for selfish reasons. Since 9/11 we have strived to increase Western military and economic superiority. We allow our civil liberties to be eroded in the name of security. Our respect for human dignity has been proven a lie as we have become the perpetrators of torture and humiliation in places like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

Perhaps nothing change on 9/11 but the words we use to justify our crimes. Perhaps 9/11 has become little more than the subject of docudramas that promote a single political view. Perhaps the lessons of 9/11 have been lost on us.

Quoted in full from Political Cycles because I couldn't have said it better no matter how hard I tried.

More on War in the Middle East

Friday, September 08, 2006

Body Image Issues... Gee, I Wonder Why

Which is real?
Could the damaging affects of poor body image in women (and, increasingly, in men) have a little something to do with retouched celebrities and models like you see here, here (look at the before/after images), and here?

Fascinating, and scary. Interactive web site with more details about how the picture on the left was produced here.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lie By Lie: How the Iraq War was Sold

Mother Jones has a really neat, interactive timeline showing just how the case for the war on Iraq was made, starting in 1990. This is nothing controversial - they use lots of well-known mainstream sources - but it is the placing of everything in context which is so effective. The floating Cheney heads were a little creepy, though. Definitely check it out.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Dropping Knowledge

Dropping Knowledge is conducting a summit on September 9th that would see "112 of the world's great minds" (participants) attempting to answer 100 public-submitted questions. Themes include power, the environment, economic justice, ethics, and more. Looks interesting. I'm curious to see what will come of it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Can Fear be a Useful Tool for Progressives?

David Roberts thinks not.
We will build nothing, create nothing, inspire nothing of worth while in the grip of fear.

It is often said that violence 'sends a message' to this or that recipient. Often the alleged message is about the firmness of our resolve -- 'we really mean it!' We send messages of this nature to the Middle East fairly regularly these days; its inbox is full. Israel sends the message to Lebanon. Russia sends the message to Chechnya. Indonesia sends the message to its separatists. And so on.

This is bullshit of the most pernicious possible sort.

Violence sends no message. This is not merely some kind of moral disagreement or metaphor: Violence has no semantic content. Modern civilization has become expert at laying layer after layer of verbiage atop its violence, but it is all rationalization and justification. At root, everything violence 'says' is captured in the famous words of the Incredible Hulk: 'Hulk smash!'

Victims of violence do not sit back and contemplate what they may have done to prompt it. They do not reconsider or learn lessons. They fight back, or they flee. As I said in earlier posts, fear and anger pull us away from ratiocination. They are the affective equivalent of the fetal position, reducing us to pure ego, pure self-preservation.

Excerpt from the fourth part in a five-part series on Fear and Environmentalism. Long, but worth a read.

Filed Under: reflection

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Muslim malaise

One of the strangest aspects of the post-9/11 world is that, despite all the talk about Muslim terrorism, there is hardly any exploration of the complex causes of Muslim rage. Muslims are in a state of crisis, but their most daunting problems are not religious. They are geopolitical, economic and social — problems that have caused widespread Muslim despair and, in some cases, militancy, both of which are expressed in the religious terminology that Muslim masses relate to.
More articles by Haroon Siddiqi

More on Religion, Politics and reflection.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Iraq: War Profiteers and Misinformation

IRAQ FOR SALE: The War Profiteers documentary is soon to be released. Screening in Toronto on October 15th, 2006 and worldwide during the week of October 8-14th.

"Iraq for Sale uncovers the connections between private corporations making a killing in Iraq and the decision makers who allow them to do so." The war in Iraq is a huge money-making opportunity for soulless corporations in a system that puts profit before people. I guess making some bucks is well worth the death of between 30,000 and 100,000 Iraqis. Sick, Sick , Sick.

The director of Iraq for Sale, Robert Greenwald, has already brought us such brilliant pieces as Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (see the walmart parody here) and Outfoxed, the excellent exposé of Fox News' propaganda machine.

Speaking of Fox, the misinformation at Fox is so overwhelming and often ridiculous we progressives often ignore it. Millions of Americans don't. The lies are truly making their way into the popular consciousness, as shows in this podcast(free mp3) by The Rational Radical, which directly links Fox to the Harris poll that showed 50% of Americans think Saddam had WMD. Fox news viewers were most likely of all to have the most such misconceptions in several areas.

Other news stations are not exempt, by the way. Fox just happens to lead the way. For detailed coverage of media misinformation, visit

Filed under: Film | War in the Middle East | Media